Breaking through the clouds

Japan in Winter (2020): Featured Flight BA7 (LHR-HND)

Date: 31 Jan 2020Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER (G-STBH)
From: London Heathrow (LHR)To: Tokyo Haneda (HND)
Scheduled departure: 1050 (GMT)Actual departure: 1057
Scheduled arrival: 0735+1 (JST)Actual arrival: 0734+1
Cabin: Club WorldSeat: 11A

At the airport

Today’s Club World experience began shortly after being dropped off at T5 by an early-morning RailAir coach from Reading, where we had spent the night at the Malmaison. After reaching the top-floor Departures level, we headed south to the far end of the building. Bruce’s ‘gold’ status with BA meant that we would both be able to use the special First Wing security channel and pass directly into the First Lounge. We had time for a small breakfast and a drink to set ourselves up for the long haul to Japan.

On board

Soon enough, it was time to head for the gate, which sadly was not one that was photography-friendly! On the other hand, we were among the first to board and had a very short walk to our seats, which is always ideal for a cabin shot. We were in the second row of the Club World cabin, a right turn and just a few steps from Door 2L. In BA’s classic ‘yin-yang’ layout, I was at the window facing rearwards, while Bruce was beside the aisle facing the front. Bedding was on the seats upon arrival, so my first priority after the cabin shot was to transfer this to the overhead bin. Welcome drinks were promptly delivered, and there was no problem when I helped myself to champagne and water from the tray. The usual amenity kit followed, as did menus and cards for submitting breakfast preferences. One of the cabin crew arrived with top-ups and I found that, probably for the first time ever, I was not in a position to accept. Clearly, I must have been yakking too much!

The captain gave an estimated flight time of 11hrs 15mins and we finally pushed back from our gate seven minutes down at 1057. It was a long taxi round to west-facing runway 27R on the north side of the airport, where we took our leave of Heathrow at 1118. As if I hadn’t realised it already, another adventure was well and truly underway.

In the air

As ever, cabin service recommenced with a round of hot towels – a simple but much appreciated touch, as well as being useful for wiping down any dodgy-looking surfaces. I watched the ‘moving map’ as we progressed through Suffolk, Norfolk and over the North Sea. I opted for a Bloody Mary as my pre-lunch drink on this occasion, which duly arrived with a bowl of mixed nuts and (as requested) a glass of ice water. When seconds were offered, I decided to switch to red Bordeaux in preparation for the meal. It was already apparent that this was a really superb crew – certainly not a ‘given’ these days. I fired up the 2018 movie Wild Rose at this point, the story of a young Glaswegian woman with dreams of making the country-music big time in Nashville.

The crew were in absolutely no hurry to progress from cocktails to lunch, which was most gratifying. Some crews just want to get the service over with as quickly as possible, so that they can get started on their own food, but not this one. Curiosity made me rise slightly in my seat to check the approximate load factor in the cabin. It was unusually low: probably around the 50% mark. As the photos show, I had the Western meal with soup & salad, the lamb main course, cheese plate (with port) and finished the whole thing off in true Scottish style with a single malt.

At this point, the time had come to deploy the bedding and settle down for a few hours’ sleep.

A new day … sort of

After approximately four hours of sleep, I woke up around 1730 GMT, or 0230 JST in the very early hours of Saturday morning, with about five hours still to run. I visited the Club Kitchen to pick up a bag of Tyrrell’s crisps and a Diet Coke, then started up the 2019 movie Angel has Fallen.

A few hours later, breakfast arrived in line with my request card completed shortly after boarding, featuring a croissant, a cheese omelette and a glass of apple juice. Once everythng had been cleared away, we flew past the airport and made a U-turn to line up for a northerly landing. Touchdown came at 0730 and we made it onto stand within a mere four minutes.

Overall, this was an excellent flight. Although it was the ‘classic’ Club World hard product (with thoughts of the new CW Suites fresh in my memory from October 2019), a superb crew and another positive experience of the still relatively new Do&Co food combined to make this a fabulous start to the current trip.